This week we are focussing on Health & Safety (H&S). We managed to catch up with one of our H&S reps, Rebecca Ash from Gateshead Healthcare Branch.
Hi Rebecca, thanks for taking your time out to speak to us.
How long have you been a H&S officer?
Since September 2019
What does your H&S Officer role involve?
Developing and maintaining good working partnerships with employers and members. Supporting, advocating, negotiating and bargaining to ensure members are safe and have a voice in their workplace.
What might surprise members about your role?
As an H&S officer I can undertake inspections, investigate potential hazards in the workplace and challenge management if we believe they are failing in their duty of care for employees. This doesn’t just include slips, trips and falls but every aspect of health and safety in the workplace including mental well-being, menopause, disability etc. Everyone has the right to ensure their employer is minimising or removing the risk of accidents, work-related illnesses and injuries in the workplace, as an officer I take forward the concerns and issues raised by members to various committees and groups to ensure safety compliance is adhered to by shaping new protocols and strengthening existing health and safety policies.
What do you enjoy most about the role?
One day is never the same as the next, getting out and about on site is great as I think it’s important to meet people raising concerns. Filling in incident reports (Datix) is very important, and I encourage everyone to do this if you identity a risk or hazard, but for me I like to get out there and meet members, see first-hand what the issues are in working practice as this better equips me to support members with their concerns.
What’s your proudest moment/ success in your H&S role?
There are lots of wins (big and little) but for me I am most proud when a member has a positive outcome, a small adjustment or improvement in a working area which may seem trivial to an employer may make a huge difference to the member and improve their health and well-being at work.
Why is workplace health, safety and wellbeing important to you?
It is vital that we raise concerns with employers to improve health and safety in the workplace and deal with problems efficiently. Promoting better health and safety in the workplace for everyone only enhances health and well-being for our members. We can’t do it on our own so we rely on our members speaking up, reporting hazards and incidents and having that trust in someone to help and support you when you need it is crucial, we are there to help your voice be heard but we are always functioning behind the scenes to ensure working environments more accessible, safe, inclusive and in line with health and safety regs.
What advice would you give to somebody considering becoming more involved with H&S?
If you are passionate about health and safety / health and wellbeing becoming a H&S officer is a great role. Your employer has a duty of care to make your workplace safe, prevent / mitigate risks to health and to ensure machinery, transport, equipment etc is safe to use. As an officer you are an important point of contact as you will support the member to tell their story, negotiate with management to improve things and if H&S regs are being breached you can hold employer to account and ensure changes are made in line with legislation.
Thanks again for your time Rebecca!
If you are interested in becoming a H&S officer yourself, find out more on our website.